When it comes to workforce development efforts, Women in HVACR (WHVACR) set the bar high with their new video, released on their Facebook page this fall. It’s about a young woman who stumbles across the HVAC field, and it starts out with a scene that, for so many young people, is all too relatable. She’s working a low-wage job: delivering pizza, far from achieving her dreams.
Then one day, the pizza goes to a house where an HVAC tech is doing work on a ladder. His hat falls off, and when she picks it up and hands it up to him with a helpful smile, you can see him asking if she’s ever thought about putting her talents toward, not pizza delivery, but the field that he’s made his career. The music ramps up: “But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day/ Sun is up and the color’s blinding/ Take the world and redefine it … You’ll never be the same!”
The song, as you may recognize, is “Come Alive” from the 2017 musical drama The Greatest Showman. The movie’s all about dreaming something amazing — even if at first, you’re the only one who can see it clearly — and finding other people to step up with you, until suddenly everyone around you believes in your dream too.
“When the world becomes a fantasy/ And you’re more than you could ever be/ ‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open,” the music pumps as the young woman in the video goes from tech school to opening the doors of her truck, beaming, for her first day on the job. “And we know we can’t be go back again/ To the world that we were living in/ ‘Cause we’re dreaming with our eyes wide open.”
If seeing is believing, seeing yourself in a certain role is the first step to believing that it’s something you can achieve. And for young women, female role models in HVAC are still few and far between. I did the math: If you average the stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics across 50 states, it comes out to fewer than 200 female HVACR technicians out of 9,000 total per state. With only 2 percent of the HVACR workforce being female, the opportunity for a young woman to see someone who looks like her succeeding in our field, and to be inspired or mentored by her, are pretty low.
That’s why it’s important to include images of women in HVACR marketing, said Colleen Keyworth, director of sales and marketing for Online Access and a board member at WHVACR. Whether it’s a contractor creating a business website, or a tech school looking for new recruits, it’s important to let your photos and your words help people see themselves in that position.
That’s what the WHVACR video aims for.
“So many times, people ask us, ‘Why are we not being able to attract women to our industry?’” Keyworth said. “Think about the marketing you’re putting out there. Very, very little of the marketing we’re using in this industry actually has women featured in it. Contractor sites … usually have guys on there. If you don’t feature a picture of a female tech, and you don’t feature female opportunities, we’re adding to the status quo by ignoring that demographic in our visual marketing.”
It’s the same concept as getting high school students — regardless of gender — to imagine a career in the trades.
“You have to see yourself in it to be able to actually imagine and take that step to be in it yourself,” she said.
At the close of the video, there’s a fellow outside on the lawn at one of the houses where our female tech is doing work. He’s using a metal detector — and he’s searching. Then suddenly, there it is on the ground in front of him. A technician’s hat.
And as he reaches up and passes the hat to the tech on the ladder, she looks to all of us watching and gives us a wink.
That’s our cue to pass the message along. It could be as easy as sharing the WHVACR video on your business’ Facebook page. It could mean handing out your business cards to cashiers and lawn service workers and your friends and all their kids. It could mean deliberately highlighting different types of people — younger, older, female, male — next time you’re shooting photos for your website, so that everyone who sees it can picture themselves working in this field and working for your business. By doing so, you’re helping others see and share your dream — and then, helping them to dream it with their eyes wide open.
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